The date is May 23rd, 2023, and the dreams of a democratic future for the citizens of Hong Kong is one step closer to ending. The Civic Party of Hong Kong disbanded due to harassment from Beijing’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After four years of an aggressive harassment campaign from the CCP, The Civic Party which consisted of educated and informed politically active citizenry such as lawyers and accountants, could no longer withstand the obstacles put in place in order to operate. Obstacles such as; banning certain candidates from running for reelection, investigating and arresting key members of The Civic Party, and a new rule stipulating “only patriots” may run for election (or reelection). Such meddling by the CCP was to allegedly bring stability to the city of Hong Kong, a city which has a history of valuing more democratic ideals.
Following years of harassment reaching as far back as 2019 when key members of The Civic Party faced prosecution, The Civic Party has been a casualty in the CCP’s campaign for tightening their hold on Hong Kong and undermining democracy. If we look at the Freedom House report of 2017 we can see Hong Kong was relatively more free with a rating of 61/100, measuring political rights and civil liberties. Contrast this to Freedom House’s most recent report of 2023, where Hong Kong’s rating has declined to 42/100. It is clear that China’s actions are squashing hopes for democracy in Hong Kong.
The process by which CCP has undermined democracy in Hong Kong is executive aggrandizement coined by political scientist Nancy Bermeo, which is described in the following:
“This more common form of backsliding occurs when elected executives weaken checks on executive power one by one, undertaking a series of institutional changes that hamper the power of opposition forces to challenge executive preferences. The disassembling of institutions that might challenge the executive is done through legal channels, often using newly elected constitutional assemblies or referenda. Existing courts or legislatures may also be used, in cases where supporters of the executive gain majority control of such bodies” (Bermeo).
In other words the CCP are using the law to weaken democracy in Hong Kong. By placing restrictions on who China views as an eligible candidates the candidates are less representative of Hong Kong.
For years, the Chinese Communist Party has engaged in executive aggrandizement, purposefully placing obstacles in the way of political parties, and in turn crushing dreams of a democratic Hong Kong. This is how democracy falls in contemporary times; rather than overt military force, a more subtle method is preferred, undermining democratic institutions and the democratic process.
Armstrong, K. (2023, May 27). Civic Party: Key Hong Kong pro-democracy group votes to disband. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-65732862
Hong Kong: Freedom in the World 2023 Country Report. Freedom House. (n.d.). https://freedomhouse.org/country/hong-kong/freedom-world/2023